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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

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Unprepared For This

Bullets & Butterflies: Queer Spoken Word Poetry Emanuel Xavier, Editor Book Review by Alexander Renault

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"Sometimes words assault the audience from the stage like bullets, wounding quick and deeply. Sometimes poems leave lips like butterflies, beautifully decorating the room with hope." --Emanuel Xavier Bullet & Butterflies was not what I expected. I thought this new anthology of slam poetry would be entertaining and mildly titillating. Xavier, an outstanding poet and gifted orator with a personal history as powerful as his poetry, has lined up an army of comrades led by some

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

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of the most uninhibited and talented poets of his generation. I not only read straight through the 200-page collection in one sitting, but experienced a spectrum of emotions ranging from dysphoria to profound pride at simply being a member of the modern GLBT community. Slam poetry is a form of rage against the despair we feel about our lives, this out-of-control circus run by a ringleader who mispronounces the most basic words in the English language, making us wonder if he should actually be wearing a clown suit instead of a top hat. In either case our current president still holds the whip and these poets know it. This anthology thumbs its nose directly at admonitions that writers and poets of our GLBT communities should play nice and keep the erotic to a safe minimum. This is an important time, considering the current climate of our country as some neutered Jesusland, to keep the sex in sexuality and keep erotica alive. Horehound Stillpoint opens up the antagonistic elements of his own personality in "Bottom Who Doesn't." Then he dives straight into politics with "It Came From Behind": "The future, this country, and my ass/ Fucked, fucked, fucked/ Thank you, President Prick/ Thing is, heroes and villains can be hard to distinguish/ They both come from behind/ Lighting a mortal fire deep within/ Undeniably, irresistibly, unbelievably/ I'm alive and so is my

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

ass/ Good job, President Prick/ You've made me feel Born Again." Shailja Patel is one of the best poets of her generation. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, she is a thirdgeneration East African Indian. A poet raised under the government of Idi Amin, this is a woman who understands the power of racism and crushing oppression. Fortunately, from the time she wandered the playground she also understood the power of words (to borrow from Alice Walker, Patel has seemingly always possessed that secret of joy, "resistance"). Patel creates beautiful references to the power of making love, even from a political angle: "it's true we really do/ change the world/ by fucking yes/ the revolution/ is our naked bodies . . . . let it give/ pat robertson/ dr. laura/ screaming slavering/ wet dream nightmares". The photograph of Alix Olson shows that a picture is worth a thousand words. It could have been used as the book cover because her words hit harder than a fist. She speaks of teaching her symbolic daughter, "She'll relinquish White Privilege/ observe, be wise, she'll compromise/ when the fire is stoked by other womyn's desires/ but she'll never leave the flame/ All the same, she'll crave what makes her burn./ She'll learn her Cunt's good name-- /the thick liquid lips, the small hot tip./ No more of this cryptic shit./ This Vagina will be known."

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

The latest squabbling within our GLBT communities has revolved around the prominence of not just our sexual orientation but our sexual representations, how much we define and show ourselves in our sexual acts. Olson reminds us of the dangers of painting our sex lives as white as a picket fence in "Cute for a Girl." Here she writes, "She stopped, dropped, rolled, paused, turned./ And that night I learned/ That skin is where this revolution gonna begin,/ Touching one woman at a time, show there's no crime/ In feeling this good." Anyone who has read Emanuel Xavier's Christlike, his semiautobiographical novel from 1999, might agree that the poet knows where he comes from and what his background has molded. Yet he remains filled with wonder regarding his success which he notes in "In the Eighties": "Don't know how it happened. I suppose/ I was never meant to get this far./ There are places that nurture noble men/ but my eyes, disguised behind shades/ no innocence to find." Xavier also catches us off guard with the suspiciously titled "A Simple Poem." It is utterly glorious in its urgent message to both our current and future generations to keep expressing via written and spoken words. Its disarming force is laced with mortality, sexuality, sensuality, and is beautifully lyrical: Make me believe you want to be a poet

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

Make my heart break, tell me why you can never love me with just a few words leave me lost and insecure feel the admiration of others bask in their desire forget that I am there Pound your fists in the air with passion go off about politics, poverty, machismo, and hate scream poems that don't give a fuck about traditions, slamming, or scores save your whispers for those who make love to you Write a poem for me that makes me want to puff a joint A poem that loses control unafraid to be vulnerable for once just make me believe it is all worth letting go when the smoke clears I will understand the reason I am just another face in the crowd I want you to continue writing because I will not always be around

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

You can tell why Xavier's collection is so powerful because it is obvious that he knows the stakes. He will not allow our GLBT history to be painted a pretty shade of complacent pink. Daphne Gottlieb describes the herstory of relationships with severely emotionally disturbed women. She notes, "All this time I thought I've been kissing, but maybe I'm always doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, kissing dead girls in the hopes that the heart will start again. Where there's breath, I've heard, there's hope." Marty McConnell's takes her stand on keeping sex within the framework of social revolution: what connects your gut to your spine to your heart refusing to sacrifice any facet of your sexuality on the altar of any cause, wearing the proof of your life in the price your loud pen will exact knowing this life is an argument with darkness, a battle to believe that morning holds something worth waking for, something harder than flesh The anthology closes with Staceyann Chin, a Jamaican national whose lists

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

of accomplishments and press covered are beyond impressive. Her unnerving realism of "Christmas" could only be overshadowed by her "Thesis on Love." If she reads this review, I hope Chin will forgive me for chopping out two pieces to stun my readers with recognition: The game of happily ever after in love is a cruel farce the lonely wish of a gullible asshole who somebody done told a whole lot of silly lies to love is nothing by the by-product of a teenager wagering hormonal changes against the smell of his own diluted sperm spilling innocent into his awkward palm . . . . Love as I have understood it is primarily disappointment and hard work and very little return so now I'm canvassing for volunteers to go tar the cupid who conjured the stupid concept feather the fucker and leave the body to burn Bullets & Butterflies closes appropriately with Chin's "Audre Lorde." In addition to praising

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

Lorde's legacy of words, Chin also praises those who have come before us to fight oppression and the incantation for future generations to continue where others have left off. This anthology is the perfect answer to those who would shun erotica for political gain. Being patronizing to the GLBT communities, and trying to soften our sexuality, is a step in the wrong direction. I cannot recommend this book enough. If words could catch paper on fire, Bullets & Butterflies could burn down every bookstore and library in the world.

Bullets & Butterflies: Queer Spoken Word Poetry (Suspect Thoughts Press, February 2005; ISBN: 0974638854) Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA © 2005 Alexander Renault. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose

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